A.N.S.W.E.R. responds to UFPJ

From A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition Steering Committee (full text online) in response to an email United for Peace and Justice sent out on their listserv saying they’ll never join forces with ANSWER again. I guess they’ll have to change their name, as the ‘United’ now seems a misnomer.

This split has been there since the Iraq War started. Now it’s in the open. The ANSWER response makes me proud to be a member. It sums up the important issues facing the antiwar movement and calls for unity towards common goals despite whatever differences may exist between groups.

A.N.S.W.E.R position on unity in the antiwar movement  (Emphasis added. Circulate widely.)

"Ten weeks after the September 24 demonstration brought more than 300,000 people to Washington DC in a massive show of strength by a united antiwar movement, the leadership of the United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) has publicly announced its unilateral intention to effect a long-term split in the antiwar movement. This is the second time in seven months that UFPJ has publicly proclaimed its intention to split the movement, coupled with a false and ugly attack on the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition.

The UFPJ leadership, from its inception, has been on a relentless path of splitting the movement.

The foundational political issue in the controversy between the two coalitions was over the inclusion of Palestine, the centrality of the Arab-American and Muslim community in the leadership of the movement and the occupation of Haiti. At its essence, the issue was one of an anti-imperialist perspective. Another underlying and related issue, usually in the background but very vital to strategic perspective, is UFPJ’s increasing orientation toward and flirtation with the Democratic Party. In the core of UFPJ’s leadership are political parties and organizations that worked tirelessly for John Kerry and the election of Democrats. Their vision of "left-center unity" means to support the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party leadership and almost all of the politicians in Congress cannot possibly embrace an antiwar movement that openly supports the Palestinian people and their right to return to their homeland. The Democratic and Republican party leadership are both fervently committed to Israel and its ongoing suppression of the Palestinians. According to this orientation, working with A.N.S.W.E.R. means it will be impossible to get the Democratic Party or members of Congress "on board."

For our part, the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition considers it harmful to try to tailor the message of the progressive movement to please the long-awaited but fictional support from the politicians. During the Vietnam war, Congress only cut funding for the war in 1974 – a year after the last U.S. soldiers left Vietnam. The leadership of the Democratic Party and the Republic Party are unflinching supporters of the war machine and they share the strategic designs for U.S. global domination through the agencies of the Pentagon, IMF, World Bank and other auxiliary instruments like the WTO, the FTAA, and NAFTA.

Inside the UFPJ leadership and in its publications there is great excitement about John Murtha’s disaffection with the war. We too welcome it as a sign that there is a small but increasing division in the camp of the war makers. Murtha is part of the camp that believes the armed insurgency cannot be militarily conquered. The split, however, is over tactics and not over the strategic goal of U.S. domination over the Middle East and its peoples.

UFPJ’s leadership sent out a sample letter to the antiwar movement that calls on people to write a letter to Congress that reads: "Instead of scorn, Murtha deserves praise and support for his courageous leadership. Isn’t that what we want from our elected officials?" Remember this for a man who stated "I supported Reagan all through the Central American thing" at his press conference announcing his call for "redeployment" from Iraq. Two hundred thousand Guatemalans, 40,000 Nicaraguans and 70,000 Salvadorans died during Reagan’s "Central America thing."

So what is Murtha actually proposing as he breaks ranks with Bush over the war that he previously supported? Murtha wants to "redeploy U.S. troops," "create a quick reaction force in the region," and "an over- the- horizon presence of Marines."(*)  Murtha has not adopted an antiwar position. He wants to redeploy militarily to strengthen the hand of U.S. imperialism in the Middle East because the current path is not working.

We are also aware that the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition is routinely singled out for attack from right-wingers in the media, as well as an insignificant and small coterie of liberal literati who sit comfortably on the sidelines slinging mud and defaming A.N.S.W.E.R. as hundreds and thousands of real activists go out every day passing out leaflets, postering, meeting with new people and conducting all the other unseen tasks that are necessary for the functioning of a truly mass movement. It is a predictable pattern. If we organize an event of 100,000 or more the chorus starts to sing simultaneously, with great excitement, from exactly the same worn out hymnal. Conservative and liberal self-appointed elites use the same old, tired, factually-inaccurate red-baiting caricatures to slander the movement we have all been working day and night to build during the past four years. We do not normally respond to those routine attacks because it is a diversion from building the real movement. Besides, it is a cottage industry that feeds off itself.

It is a source of embarrassment for the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition that the antiwar movement in the most privileged country, led by a government whose actions have created so much suffering and consequent anger from people around the world, is unable to come together to shoulder the responsibility placed on us.  Splitting the peace movement on an unprincipled and sectarian basis in the U.S. is an act that will enter history shrouded with the indignation of the victims of empire and war.

Abrogating our responsibility to unity is an option the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition will not take. We will never abandon those struggling against the bombs and jet fighters made here in the United States.

It is unfortunate that we have had to divert energies to respond to this effort to split the movement, but we are also confident that the many hundreds of thousands of antiwar activists in the country will choose the path of unity—to stand together regardless of whether a small leadership grouping directs people to be divided. There will be Spring demonstrations against war and racism including the March 18-20 days of action ( We still believe that unity is the best way to proceed and that the most important work is to bring as many forces as possible together based on the inclusion, not exclusion, of targeted communities.

In the weeks and months ahead, the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, working with allies in oppressed and targeted communities, with young people in the high schools and universities and in the workplace, and with all those who are fighting for peace and justice, will seek to build the broadest, most militant mass movement to stop the war in Iraq and the war against working class communities at home. Different groups may have different slogans on their banners, but they should try to overcome the forces of division so as to march shoulder to shoulder against the real enemy.

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